Luke’s eyes fluttered open as he came back to consciousness. The first thing he realized was that he had a massive headache to deal with, and then he remembered the night before. A hint of a smile showed up on his face, but went away as soon as it came. Damn hangover! He concluded and looked around.
He was home – Noah’s apartment, but now that he lived here he considered it as theirs – and in their bedroom. Luke tried in vain to think how he got back in the first place. He couldn’t remember much after the third glass of beer he had emptied. ‘Did Noah show up at the bar later? He had said he would if he got the chance. But if that was the case, then he must be pissed off.’ Luke cringed and gazed in the direction of the door. It was slightly open and he could hear movement.
The blonde slowly got off the bed and headed towards the door. However, when he got there, he suddenly felt weird and took off to reach the bathroom. Once there, he leaned over the toilet and gagged as he began to throw up. His tummy felt sickly and he felt like shit. ‘Oh God!’ He whispered panting, when he thought his throwing up had ended, but he was only proved wrong seconds later.
He suddenly felt a bit weak after puking and there was the headache troubling him as well. When he turned around, he saw a worried Noah leaning against the doorframe watching him. Luke smiled sadly but the smile wasn’t returned. His boyfriend shifted his weight as if uncomfortable about something and then walked away. Luke got suspicious. He brushed his teeth to get rid of the bitter taste in his mouth, and washed his face quickly before coming out into the living room.
Noah wasn’t there, so the kitchen was his best guess. “Morning.” He tried to utter the word as cheerfully as he could, settling himself by the kitchen table. His voice came out dry though.
“G’morning” Noah had whispered before he brought some chilled water and aspirin to him. “Take this. You will feel better.” He said handing it to him. Luke observed his every move. He didn’t look upset but he didn’t look very happy either. And for some reason, Noah refrained from looking him in the eye.
After handing Luke the glass of water and the pills, Noah had moved to the kitchen counter and fumbled with things on there. He would pick up the pan or something then take it away needlessly. “I am hungry.” Luke said watching his actions closely.
“Not now.” Noah mumbled looking everywhere but at Luke. “You will throw up whatever you eat. Take the pills and I will make some tea for you.” Luke sighed. That was when his boyfriend looked up with concern. “I will make something for you later okay?”
“It’s not that.” He snapped. “It’s you.” Noah looked baffled. “Why are you acting so ... so distant to me? What’s wrong?”
Noah stared at him for awhile, and then looked away before plainly stating, “I am not acting any different ... and nothing is wrong. I am just worried about you.”
“Is that it?” Luke asked, “Because I feel there’s more to it than just that.”
“Don’t you ...?” Noah trailed off looking at him in disbelief then exhaled frustratingly. “Look ... can we not do this right now? We can talk later.” He paused for some time. Luke kept mum thinking Noah would continue, but when he didn’t he sighed again and quietly took the pills. Then out of the blue, Noah suggested hesitatingly, “Why don’t you go put on some clothes?”
Oddly, Luke didn’t comprehend till that moment that he was wearing nothing but his underwear. He looked down and nodded considerately. He stood up from his chair and as he was about to leave, a weird flashback in his memory made him stop. It was a very quick image running past his mind and before he could understand what was happening, it was gone.
Luke lowered his gaze again, but this time he kept looking at his bare body for awhile with a puzzled look. Once again, the flashback came to him and kept coming more and more. His shirt was removed – he struggled out of the grasp of someone – the person caught him and kissed him forcefully – the bloodshot grey eyes staring at him – he was pushed on the bed in a reckless manner as the body fell on him and ...
“Luke ...” He found himself in Noah’s arms and his eyes flickered to awareness.
“What happened?” He mumbled suddenly feeling very weak.
Noah looked frightened now. “You ... you fainted.” He said. “Are you okay?”
“I-I don’t think so.” Luke steadied himself squirming out of Noah’s hold. He held his throbbing head in his hands. The flashbacks came back but with less severity except ... “Wh-What happened last night?” He asked with a great amount of panic in his voice.
Noah’s face lost any previous expressions it had, before turning sullen and he looked away. He certainly didn’t want to give anything away.
“Tell me ... please tell me Noah. What the hell happened last night?” His voice had risen in fright and he tried in vain to get his boyfriend to look him in the eye. But Noah wouldn’t.
“You don’t remember ...?” He muttered.
“I ... No ... I mean I don’t know. The last thing I remember is that the guys and I parted ways after leaving the bar ... They left for Oakdale and I was taken back here by Max...” His voice trailed off and everything became clearer. He gasped. “Maxi” His voice wavering. “What happened with Maxi? He did something to me, didn’t he?”
Noah spared him a look with concern in his eyes. “When I came back, I ... I found you in the bed ... with him.” One could tell how hard it was for him to utter those words. “You were practically unconscious, and ... he took advantage of that to ...”
“He raped me?” Luke gasped as tears began to well up in his eyes. He couldn’t believe this had happened.
“No ... no he didn’t.” Noah hurried with the explanation. “Thank God for that. I reached you in time and ... stopped his act.” He spat those words and looked away with anger boiling in him.
“And ...? Did you let him go?” Luke wanted to know. Almost getting raped was no different than being actually raped. And he wanted that bastard to get what he deserved. It was a shame that he had considered him a friend in first place.
Noah hesitated. “Yes.” Luke didn’t expect that. “I wasn’t planning to. But ... when I got him off you, I saw he was not in his senses either. I could smell the booze on him. And not even a moment after that, he passed out too. So I took him back to his place.”
Luke yelled, “He was going to rape your boyfriend and instead of getting him in trouble, you drop him off at home? What kind of boyfriend are you?” Raising his voice was hurting his head more, but he couldn’t help his anger.
“Don’t be silly Luke. The moment I saw him on you, I wanted nothing but to beat the shit out of him. And I would have if he hadn’t keeled over.” Noah explained holding Luke by his shoulders, but the boy gave out a snort. “Listen to me – he will get his punishment, alright? I want him punished too.”
“You should have, when you had the chance.” Luke said, his nose flaring in anger. “Now it’s me who will punish him. I won’t expect much out of you.”
He stormed off after saying that.
Joe munched on his toast while his mind was deep in thought. His ears could make out the doorbell ringing and then someone talking, but he didn’t pay much attention to it until he heard his name being called.
He turned as an old lady appeared in the kitchen with an ever-warming smile on her face. “Honey, someone’s here for you.” She sang the words as she entered the kitchen, while a familiar blond boy followed her.
“Hey,” Gust grinned at him.
“Hey! What a pleasant surprise!” Joe kicked back his chair and stood up to reach for his boyfriend with a big smile. He was beaming so bright like Gust was; he was so excited to see him this morning. Well, that was definitely true. “I wasn’t really expecting company, but I am more than glad you are here.” He gave him a quick peck, considerate of his grandmother’s presence in the room.
Gust rubbed his bicep gently and asked, “How are you?”
Joe could hear the worry in those words. “Never better.” He lied covering it with a sweet smile.
Gust gave him an I-am-not-gonna-buy-that look, but didn’t question any further. “I just thought I would come up to check on you while I was going this way. You were pretty drunk last night when I left you here.”
“I was not that drunk.” Joe rolled his eyes. “I made it to the patio by myself, didn’t I?”
“Yeah.” Gust put on a straight face. “After flying down three steps, that is. Not to mention, instead of ringing the bell, you woke up your grandma by stumbling down on the floor, falling hard.” Then he began to laugh, accompanied by Joe’s grandmother.
The dark-haired boy frowned looking between both of them and decided to ignore them.
“He seems better now but you should have seen him this morning.” His grandmother had a sarcastic look on her face. “That’s a good punishment for getting wasted like that, wasn’t that Joseph?”
Joe decided to change the subject. “So Gust, where the heck are you making your way to?” He asked his boyfriend.
“Oh.” Gust turned serious and looked forlorn when he stated, “Candes was taken to the hospital last night. So I am going there.”
“What the f...” He stopped midway, watching his grandmother’s stern face before continuing, “What happened to her? Is she ... Is the baby okay?” He was horrified by the weird thought of Candes losing the baby. He felt an attachment to the baby, more because it was Gust’s too. He couldn’t even imagine anything happening to him or her.
“Calm down, baby.” Gust began to assure him, “Mom said she is okay now. Just the stress of ...” He hesitated before continuing, “Just the stress got to her. I am going to stay with her today. Mom and dad have been there the whole night and Matt is going to come later he said.”
Joe nodded. “I will come with you then.” He said which brought a smile to Gust’s face.
“But honey, weren’t you going to go and get the things you need from your parent’s place?” His grandmother enquired.
“That can wait ...”
“Joe, that’s okay. Tomorrow we have school and you need to get all your things today.” Gust countered. “Besides, Candes is fine now. So you don’t have to worry about her or me.”
Joe took a moment to think, and then he said, “Okay here’s what we can do. You drop me by my parent’s apartment and leave for the hospital. I will collect my things and get my car from there and meet you at the hospital.”
“That might just be the plan.” Joe’s grandmother acceded.
“Hey, I want to see Candes. She’s my friend too now and you can’t stop me from caring for her.” Joe smirked.
Gust sighed defeated by his stubbornness. “Alright.”
Joe grinned. “What are we waiting for then?” He wiped his hands and was all set to head out.
“Oh Gust, dear, would you like something to eat?” His grandmother had asked Gust and then turned to him looking upset, “Someone seems to have forgotten his manners.”
“No thank you Mrs. Brannan.” Gust smiled, “I have had breakfast before I left my house. So, I’m good.”
They both said their goodbyes to her and left. Joe hopped into the passenger seat of Gust’s convertible with skill. He adored his boyfriend’s green car.
It wasn’t a long drive to his parent’s apartment and here he was, nervously stepping out, before he could ready himself. He took wary steps across the driveway of the house which he proudly called his until two days ago. It was awful to be leaving this house. He halted, twisted to look back and found Gust still sitting in the car watching him. He gave him a crooked smile and waved.
Gust seemed unsure of what to do. He shifted in his seat and got the car started. He took a moment watching Joe, then drove off.
Joe exhaled out his anxieties and resumed his stroll down the beautiful lawn. It was weird though. The little flowery plants in the garden seemed to be a little lifeless. They were green, but the leaves and the flowers were a bit squished. They seemed to have not gotten watered that day, and maybe even the day before. It was never like this; it was very unusual for his garden-loving mother to forget about her dearly loved plants.
He walked up the patio and knocked on the door three times. No answer. He rang the doorbell. There was motion on the other side and Joe’s heart skipped a bit as someone unlatched the door.
There stood Joe’s mother, Marie, with a frown on her face and her baggy eyes showing her exhaustion. He thought he knew why she gave him that look, but it was not what he thought. “Joe, I was feeding Angel. Why didn’t you just use your keys to get in?” She asked angrily as she walked back in.
Joe, totally lost, entered behind her and followed in. He had expected his mother to not talk to him but ... she was talking like she normally did, before even the whole episode with Gust’s religion started.
“Where have you been all night anyway?” She stopped and turned around. “And I thought I heard a car outside? Yours is parked outside, so who dropped you here? Was it Gust?” Joe kept staring with a wary look. He didn’t dare to answer. However, surprisingly she didn’t have the look of anger when she asked him that. “Why didn’t you invite him in? Joseph Cedric Brannan, did you forget your manners now?”
Joe wrinkled his eyebrows. What was she going on about? He opened his mouth to ask her, but his father’s voice stopped him. “Marie, sweetheart, you left Angel crying over there.” He said walking towards them.
“Goodness gracious! I must get back to her and ...” She paused sensing something, then turned to face Joe. Frowning again and she spitefully looked away. “Cedric, ask him what is he doing here.”
‘Wow!’ Joe wondered about the sudden turn of events. He was clueless. “Honey, why don’t you go in, I will talk to him.”
Marie looked at her husband, then at Joe before she briskly walked into the other room. “Okay, what was all that about?” Joe asked as soon as she was out of ear shot.
“She is ...” Cedric hesitated then changed the subject. “How are you, Joe? Did you spend last night at Gust’s place?” He didn’t seem agitated about it as he asked. Thinking about it, Joe came to the conclusion that it never mattered to his dad what religion one belonged to, and he had kept his opinions on the Gust matter much to himself all this time. He wanted to ask, but couldn’t.
“I am okay dad and no, I stayed at grandma’s house,” he replied. “I told her everything and you know what? She doesn’t care who I love or to what religion my boyfriend or his mother belongs to.” He gave a smirk.
His dad scowled at him and sighed. “I don’t care either.”
“Then why don’t you talk to mom?” Joe said. “Make her understand what she is doing is wrong.”
“I won’t, not now.” Cedric shook his head. “You have no idea what she is going through.”
“What do you mean?”
“Her Alzheimer’s is back.” He whispered. “Ever since this started and ever since she began to feel her son is distancing himself from her, she has started to forget things. First it was just little things she would keep somewhere and forget, but then she began to forget major things. Like yesterday, she couldn’t recognize our neighbour’s daughter.”
“B-but you said it was gone before.”
“Minimized would be appropriate to say.” Cedric said. “The meds worked their way to minimise it but the recent depressing events in her life have brought her down. The doctor said that might be the reason.”
Joe was trying to let all the information sink in, getting himself more worried. “So what is the doctor gonna do now?”
His father looked at him with hope. “There’s not much he could do, he said. But I think you, Joe, can save her.” He said. “She needs you back Joe.”
“You know I would do that without any hesitation. But she must accept me and Gust together for that to happen.” He came clear. “I want her to get better but not by giving up the love of my life.”
“Joseph! I never thought you’d ever grow into such selfish person. You’re ready to abandon your sick mother just for the sake of having your love by your side?”
“Oh believe me, dad. Whatever side I choose, I will seem to be a selfish person.”
“But you choose that fag over your mother.” He yelled out in anger.
Joe stared at him in disbelief. He couldn’t believe what his father had just said. He snorted. “Well, maybe because I am a fag too?” He hissed.
Cedric’s face showed shock at his own outburst. He began to reach for Joe. “Son ...”
“Don’t!” Joe stepped back. “I am just here to get my stuff. I will take it and I will be gone.” He said and headed upstairs leaving his father in his sadness.
Maxi was in foul mood ever since he got to work. He was edgy and the bossy manager had warned him not to get into it with the customers. So he was trying not to, even though the stupid customers never acted sane.
His head was aching severely, and with having to think more and more, it was getting worse. What happened last night wasn’t meant to happen. He was supposed to keep his emotions in check and he was supposed to control all the lust he felt for Luke’s attractive body. All this shit wouldn’t have occurred otherwise.
But the alcohol ruined it all, although he wasn’t that drunk. He shouldn’t have offered to take Luke home; he shouldn’t have taken him inside the house, into the bedroom. The beautiful blonde was clinging to his side, walking more unsteady than him. But the closeness and warmth tickled his heart. And he did something which he shouldn’t have done. He forced his way on Luke, kissing him, trying to get him naked and ...
The beep sound came and he tore the bill from the customer, “Forty-five ninety-five” He said with boredom. He took the money, returned the change and waited for the next customer to come up.
But when he looked up, his mouth went dry and before he could say anything, a fist flew across his face. He swore he must have broken his nose as he fell down on the floor with a thud. “That’s for the little stunt you pulled last night, you loser. Wait and watch for the consequences, because there’s more to come, baby.” Luke was angrily spitting out the words.